HOUSTON – Cesar Hernandez may or may not be wearing Indian uniform when the July 31st trading deadline comes and goes. But he made an impact in his two years in Cleveland.
Last year he won his first Gold Glove during the 60-game sprint and led AL second basemen in hits, runs, doubles and walks. This year the defense wasn’t quite as golden, but the strength was.
Hernandez gave the Indians their first and only win over the Astros of the season on Wednesday evening with his 16th homer of the year. It was a tie drive in the seventh inning that gave the Indians a 5-4 win in Minute Maid Park. The 16 homers are a career high for the switch beating Hernandez, who will continue to avail himself of the commercial or free agent market if the Indians don’t exercise his club option for 2022.
“His batting average (0.226) is lower than what he’s used to, but he’s also hit 16 home runs and many of them were big,” said manager Terry Francona. “You were definitely helpful. He shows up every day. “
The win was the 721st of Francona’s managerial career with the Indians, making Mike Hargrove the second highest in franchise history. Lou Boudreau leads with 728 wins.
The Indians ended the season streak against Houston 6-1. They were outdone, 37-21. They went 3-3 on that six-game trip through Oakland and Houston. Five of the six games were decided by two or fewer runs.
Rookie right-handed Eli Morgan turned his fifth straight start from five innings. He retired 15 of the first 17 thugs he faced. He couldn’t have pitched much better, but he made two mistakes and they both left the stadium.
Relievers Bryan Shaw, Phil Maton, Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak covered the last four innings. Karinchak threw ninth place for his eleventh save in 13 chances while Shaw (3-3) took the win despite giving up a couple of hits and a run in the Astros sixth run that tied the game at 4.
“He had to serve because he’d faced them before and they knew he had a nice change,” Francona said when asked about Morgan. “He threw his slider better, threw his fastball. But when changing on the second home run, I probably went to the fountain one too often. “
Jose Altuve, who scored two home runs in Tuesday’s 9-3 win to celebrate his 10th anniversary in the major leagues, kept the party going with a lead-off homer on the fourth step to take the 1-1 result cover up. It was Altuve’s 23rd homer and the fourth against the Indians that year.
Morgan pulled the next four batter back and mixed his fastball, slider and changeup before Kyle Tucker sent a 75 mph changeup over the right field fence to take a 2-1 lead with an out in the fifth.
Pitching trainer Carl Willis spoke about his offspring on Tuesday. He said they would learn to compete, adapt, and limit harm. Like veterans, he said, they would make mistakes regardless of when those mistakes were made.
Perhaps he was referring to throwing Altuve a 92 mph ball that landed in the left field seats when he was ahead on a 1-2 count. The two Houston homers were 10th and 11th. Morgan has only allowed 31 1/3 innings this season.
Or, Tucker could have thrown it four times in a row in the at-bat that ended in a homer.
“I think Jose did a good job,” said Morgan. “We may have fastballed this spot once too many times, but I think I still got it in an OK position. . The one with Tucker was just a bad pitch. I threw him three changes in a row before and each one was qualitatively poorer. I have to get better at that. “
Ernie Clement weakened those homers’ sting with a three-double in the sixth run to give the Indians a 4-2 lead. The Indians loaded the bases against right-handed Lance McCullers Jr. on singles from Franmil Reyes and Oscar Mercado and Bobby Bradley’s Walk.
Bryan Abreu cleared McCullers with no outs, beating Roberto Perez and Yu Chang. Clement hemmed Abreu’s first throw from the wall in the center left to clear the bases.
“I was picky,” said Clement. “I wanted to hunt on the slider. It seemed like he fell in love with the field throughout the inning. I knew I would get one and did my best not to miss it. “
The leadership did not last.
Morgan, who finished 77 pitches, came out for sixth place but allowed a lead-off double to # 9 hitter Martin Maldonado. Shaw relieved and Altuve hanged a double from the left scoreboard to make it 4: 3. A ground out from Michael Brantley and a single from Yuli Gurriel equalized the result with 4-4.
The Indians took their first lead of the series thanks to a 10-pitch-at-bat from Hernandez against McCullers in the third. Chang, just promoted from Class AAA Columbus, opened the inning with a single. Clement called him to the second room and Bradley left.
McCullers knocked out Amed Rosario but Hernandez worked him to a 2-2 point before fouling five fields in a row. On the 10th field of the At-Bat, he rebounded a ball over the third baseline, with Houston’s defense shifted to the right. The ball bounced off third base for a double as Chang scored a goal and Zimmer moved into second.
Reyes struck to end the inning, but the Indians led 1-0.
Morgan allowed three runs on three hits in five innings. It was almost a replica of his start against the Astros on July 3, when he allowed three runs with five hits – including two homers – in a 3-2 defeat at Progressive Field.
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